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What is dram shop liability?

Assigning liability for drunk driving accidents in Monmouth County might seem fairly straightforward: the intoxicated driver that hit you is responsible for their actions. Yet what about those parties that may have contributed to them becoming drunk? Without having been furnished with alcohol, a strong argument may be made that the driver that hit you would have never been in position to do so in the first place. At the same time, others might claim that establishments are not responsible for the actions of their patrons. 

The latter assertion may be true only to a certain extent. New Jersey has joined a number of other states in establishing its own "dram shop law." These laws are meant to assign liability to restaurants, bars or clubs where a driver became intoxicated before causing an accident. Such laws might cause many to question why an establishment would serve alcohol at all. Yet dram shop liability may not apply to every case involving drunk driving. 

Per Section 2A-22A.5 of New Jersey's code of Administration of Civil and Criminal Justice, an establishment can only be subject to dram shop liability in the following scenario: 

  • Its servers continued to serve alcoholic drinks to a person who was already visibly intoxicated, or to a minor that the server knew (or a reasonable person should have known) to be a minor
  • Such negligent service was the proximate cause of your accident
  • An accident was a foreseeable result of such negligent service

For the purposes of this statute, "visibly intoxicated" is determined to be an intoxicated state in which one's actions clearly indicate that they are indeed drunk. 

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